Communication sits at the heart of society, and digital communications technology (DCT) has had rapid uptake. Our kids are connected and can communicate at an unprecendented scale. Smartphones are ubiquitous, an increasing number of schools have BYOD policies, and technology enables and empowers learning in many positive ways. The challenge is to maximize the positive aspects of connection, while managing risk.
John Parsons is one of New Zealand's leading authorities on cyber-security. Highly regarded, Parsons has significant experience dealing with cyber-security crisis management. We recently had an interesting catch-up in our office, and his services are in high demand.
Over the years he's developed a toolbox of practical strategies for children and their caregivers designed to keep kids safe online and encourage good digital citizenship. He's just released his book Keeping Your Children Safe Online: A Guide for New Zealand Parents to empower children to live in the online world both safely and ethically.
Parsons has divided his book into two parts. The first part examines the fundamental concepts and strategies required to be safe online, and includes six key areas:
- Family values – how to anchor children to what’s important. This includes educating children to understand the value of self, to respect and protect family and friends, and to broadcast decency and positive values across the internet.
- Cyber-separation – keeping those lines of communication open, especially when the parent has little understanding of their child’s online world through unsupervised internet use.
- A digital boundary – making informed, ethical decisions. Parsons provides strategies for parents on how to build appropriate digital boundaries.
- Cyber-muscles – Parsons demonstrates how children can learn to project confidence, power and control online.
- Communication and the “cyber-tooth tiger” - how to deal with over-reaction from parents when things go wrong.
- Acceptable use of digital devices – how to create a fair and balenaced relationship with digital technology.
The second part of the book examines specific risks including sexting, cyber-bullying, online grooming, digital addiction, cyber-crime, and the long-term impact of a digital footprint. Both sections contain real-life anecdotes and experiences, and demonstrate just how prevalent these issues for many of our children. It's an interesting read, and a hot topic for school communities.
While his book has been written with parents and caregivers in mind, his key message is that the online world needs the same kind of boundaries as the physical world. It's important to provide high levels of support for young children's use of technology, then reduce that support as they get older providing age-appropriate guardianship along the way.
If you'd like information about school internet filtering services, blocking VPN's, or parental control options with Family Zone we'd love to have a chat.